The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has good news and bad news. The agency’s Vital Signs report found that “62 percent of adults say they walked for at least once for 10 minutes or more in the previous week in 2010, compared to 56 percent in 2005.” But in the National Health Interview Survey, it also found that only “48 percent of all adults get enough physical activity to improve their health.”
According to the Vital Signs report, walking is “seen in nearly all groups surveyed. Walkers were defined as those who walked for at least one session of 10 minutes or more for transportation, fun or exercise. In the West, roughly 68 percent of people walk, more than any other region in the country. People living in the South had the largest increase in the percentage of people who walk, up by nearly 8 percentage points from about 49 percent in 2005 to 57 percent in 2010. The report also found that more adults with arthritis or hypertension are walking; there was no increase in walking among adults with type 2 diabetes.”
“More than 145 million adults are now getting some of their physical activity by walking,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., in a CDC press release. “People who are physically active live longer and are at lower risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression and some cancers.”
While the CDC is happy that more people are getting some physical activity through walking – one of the easiest ways to exercise – it’s not enough according to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which recommends at least 2.5 hours per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity; the activity should be done for at least 10 minutes at a time. Less than half of all adults get enough activity that benefits their health.
The Vital Signs report also suggested ways to increase the number of people walking and the amount of time people walk by creating safer and accessible walking environments, like allowing residents to utilize local school tracks and gyms after classes or getting employers to create walking paths around or near work places.
“Having more places for people to walk in our communities will help us continue to see increases in walking, the most popular form of physical activity among American adults,” Frieden said.
“People need more safe and convenient places to walk,” said Joan M. Dorn, Ph.D., branch chief of the Physical Activity and Health Branch in CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. “People walk more where they feel protected from traffic and safe from crime. Communities can be designed or improved to make it easier for people to walk to the places they need and want to go.”